Eight years ago would we have ever thought that the newly christened Marvel Studios, partnered with Paramount as financier (until the House Of Mouse bought out Marvel for $4 billion), would launch a cinematic universe that would have no end in sight? Back in the day, in case any of you fans have forgotten, comic book movies weren’t the norm in cinemas. Sometimes waiting for a finely crafted adaptation took the brilliance of outside-the-box filmmakers like Richard Donner, Tim Burton, and Sam Raimi. Sure, Iron Man back in 2008 wasn’t perfect by any means but Jon Favreau created the winning formula. For years Marvel has used that formula to create blockbuster after blockbuster, each installment one-upping the next in scale and character, continuing to keep audiences invested without getting bored. With Favreau doing his own projects at Disney (though looking to return to Marvel) and Joss Whedon taking a much-needed breather following Age Of Ultron, Anthony and Joe Russo took the reins. To kick start Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they set out on one goal – change the game. Rework the formula. The question remained, however. Would fans buy into the formula change?
It is almost like the Russo’s hearken on a line that has defined Steve Rogers/Captain America – “I can do this all day.” Don’t worry. So can we. Civil War is truly the culmination of eight years of character development, increasing threats, and rising tension, bringing to head Steve Rogers and Tony Stark’s differing looks at the world and ethics, paving the way for Phase Three and beyond while placing our heroes squarely in a position they’ve never been before – at odds with each other.
Following another foreign incident resulting in casualties, the United Nations enlists Secretary Of State Thaddeus Ross to present The Avengers
with The Sokovia Accords. Signing the accord means the team will now be at the beckon of the members of the UN to be deployed to situations of their choosing, without the team to be able to gear up and defend on their own free will. Tony Stark, overcome with guilt from the ashes of Age Of Ultron, backs the accords, alongside James Rhodes and Natasha Romanoff. Steve Rogers in no good taste can sign the papers. Neither can Sam Wilson.
As the team gets caught in a see-saw of contention, another bombing brings Bucky Barnes back into the fold. Looking to prove his innocence, Rogers and Wilson go on the run with Bucky. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Helmut Zemo has his own plans and will use his tactics to bring the curtain down on all our heroes in a showdown of ideals that each side will fight to defend.
Hell, even that brief summary for the plot doesn’t accurately describe all the events that unfold. Co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have been at the core of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for six years and have crafted some of the best scripts for the studio. In any other hands, a movie with as many sub-plots as Civil War may tether, fray, then completely fall apart by the third act. Somehow, and I tip my cap, the duo manage to
successfully stitch all of the pieces together with hardly a thread exposed. The pacing is organized, mixed evenly with narrative and action, and never feels overly gestated. The dialogue is biting and sharp, occasionally even taking Mark Millar’s words straight from the comic mini-series and adapting them to key moments. The humor is evenly mixed, a quick joke here and there but never fully distracting from the scene unfolding. (You’ve seen
Winter Soldier. You’ll know what to expect.) I get the sense that Markus and McFeely have exhausted themselves reading old Marvel stories to get a better understanding of the many characters.
Credit also has to be given to Anthony and Joe Russo. Much like Steve Rogers (did anyone ever think a kid from Brooklyn could become the symbol of freedom?), the brothers have only contributed more to the Marvel product as a result of their previous experience on Community. Much like you and I, they are rabid fan boys whose love is to play with the characters we adore. In their case, the Russo’s are the ones doing what they’ve always wanted to do. They understand that tense scenes shouldn’t be cut short and should hook us like bait on a fishing line, never wandering from a conversation and keeping the lens directed at who’s talking. They are fully aware that action scenes should be frenetic, tightly focused on the action at hand so we can see what is going on, who is at odds with whom. They also comprehend that fans want to have an emotional connection with the characters too, so working with Markus and McFeely works incredibly well to craft the perfect script. These are flawed individuals who have losses, who have regrets, who have inner turmoils much like you and I.
Emotion is one key element that keeps Civil War bound together. We are never given just cause to be on either Iron Man or Captain America’s sides, not even for a minute. Both men are presented equally in the slow build towards to the climatic showdown. Rogers has his own struggles – leaving those behind that he was never able to stay close to. Losing the ones he cares the most about. Having his ideologies challenged and being told he is in error for his archaic thinking. Then there’s Tony Stark, always at war with himself. Alone because he can’t quit pushing himself. Unwilling to back down from a challenge and always expecting everyone to follow his lead without question. Haunted by past losses and hates he can’t go back to fix his
mistakes. Put the minds of those two men at odds and we’re presented with a movie that has gravitas. In some way your heart will get tugged; the question is which flaw is enough to connect with you most.
Despite some reviews suggesting this is more of an Avengers movie than a standalone tale – I would beg to differ. Rather, take a step back and Civil War as the end of a trilogy. At the center of the story isn’t just the tear between two friends and teammates, not by any means. Rather, this is closure for both Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. Both men have been at the heart of all three movies. They grew up together in Brooklyn before World War
II, were torn apart by different sides, and find their comradery renewed by a new conflict. Their destinies may have been wholly different, but Rogers never once gave up faith in his friend, his brother if you will. Rogers used all of his strength, his determination, his damn heart to save Bucky. Their tale began in The First Avenger and has exemplary closure with Civil War.
Sure, everyone’s inner nerd screams for that massive airport battle between both factions, but you can’t overlook what this story is about. Markus and
McFeely have known what they were crafting through the trilogy – and they’ve succeeded.
To answer the question on everyone’s minds – the big showdown between Team Cap and Team Iron Man. Wow. I have to hand it to Marvel/Disney. You may get a sneak peak in the trailers but nothing that spoils what to expect. (Plus, a keen eye shows that Industrial Light & Magic edited out key portions in the trailers too. Bravo.) Unlike another big brawl that hit screens not even two months ago, this one doesn’t skimp the theatrics of the fight. The centerpiece is as gripping, as tense, and as breathtaking as you hoped. Friendships are tossed aside and the only answer is to go bare knuckle. And fight our heroes do. I in no good conscience will ruin any aspect because, for fifteen-plus minutes, we’re given a fight sequence that beats out anything staged on screen in recent memory.
There are more heroes in Civil War than any previous Marvel installment. (To think of how many will grace the screen in Infinity War makes my brain overload.) While the trailer makes us believe that the core conflict is Iron Man against Captain America, there is much more underneath the surface. Wanda Maximoff factors heavily into the plot, an “enhanced” with powers that many wish they had but could never control, wanting to freely go about their business but unable to because others lack the understanding and compassion for someone who is different. The Vision is by her side, heavily drawing from the comics, winking at their romance but never fully take that leap (just yet anyway). The introduction and development of
T’Challa/Black Panther is a major accomplishment. Chadwick Boseman is stellar casting. Boseman is a naturally gifted actor, channeling his inner
emotions as a young man with differing views of the world he inhabits but his own sense of carrying out the values on which he was raised. Boseman conveys the disturbed Wakandan King with a distinct sense of purpose and arguably steals the show. (Personally, I cannot wait to see him in Ryan Coogler’s BlackPanther.)
And then there’s Spider-Man. With just under thirty minutes of screen time as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, Tom Holland somehow cements himself as the perfect balance of the boy, yes boy, under the “onesie” as well as the smart aleck hero. If there has ever been a character to divide fanboys, that character is certainly Spider-Man. Granted, I’m a huge Webhead fan, so my take skewers differently than others. Tobey Maguire nailed Peter Parker but didn’t have Spidey’s wit and charm. Andrew Garfield wasn’t the best Peter Parker but thrilled as he spewed one-liners. Tom Holland is a mixture of the two, astonished to meet his idols in combat but still overly jittery about his homework. Holland plays Parker as a bit naive and wet behind the ears, still very young and finding his place in the world when he just wants to save everyone for those that he couldn’t. (Don’t worry – we
don’t get another origin. Thank God.) Plus, that suit! If there was ever a costume to truly get ripped from the comic book pages (with some small changes), it’d be Spider-Man’s. The eyes, the emblem, everything. The deal between Marvel and Sony will pay off dividends in the long run. Marvel can creatively control their pride and joy and, for just a brief few moments, we get a sense of what we can expect next year in Jon Watts’ Spider-Man:
If there are any gripes about Civil War, they’re certainly minor nitpicks. For one, the lack of development for Daniel Bruhl’s Helmut Zemo is underwhelming. As much screen time that he does accumulate, his plan is a bit of a stretch.We all know one day Zemo becomes one of the most
brilliant tacticians to square off against Captain America. Here though, Zemo isn’t quite there yet. He’s hungry, he’s angry, he’s focused and only on one goal. The problem at the center is, Civil War is a very large-scale movie that sweeps us around the globe, channeling a Jason Bourne-esque vibe as both sides hop from New York to Eastern Europe. Zemo remains nestled in the shadows biding his time. However, I can quickly forgive all of this as, yes, even the villain has a bit of emotion resonance that is left with audiences. Also, can we get more of Sharon Carter? Please? Or even Hawkeye? However, both individuals are used more to further the plot more than anything really.
Oh, and Scott Lang/Ant-Man. More. Now! His own sequel just seems so far away at this point and Ant-Man’s inclusion into the fold leaves a wake
of pure comedic gold. (Then again – it is Paul Rudd in the role after all.)
Lastly – yes, there are two stingers at the end. No, I won’t ruin them. They’re short, as expected, but much worth it, as they’re nods of things that are to
I knew as the lights eased back on and the crowd applauded and whistled that Marvel managed to pull it off. Was there any question? There are
many facets of making a standout blockbuster that other studios, such as Warner Brothers, fail to understand properly – a winning formula. A movie needs a soul fueled by emotional connection. The characters should be placed in circumstances that outweigh anything they’ve ever faced prior.
The formula can’t be afraid to be ballsy, asking the hard questions without a clear sense of the right answer. Most of all, into that equation, there should be some type of fun. At the end of Civil War, nothing is wrapped up in a brightly colored box with a neatly-tied bow. Anthony and Joe Russo have managed to craft one of the most brilliant and fascinating comic book movies by shaking up the tradition formula. There are no sunshine and
rainbows at the end of the day. If this is was their love letter to Mark Millar’s comic event – what will we see when Infinity War comes our way in two years? I don’t know about you, but I’m excited and anxious. Civil War redefines the genre and has properly closed The First Avenger’s trilogy with
thunderous rip-roaring adventure that will invest your emotions and leave you wanting more of Marvel’s finest.
Reber’s Rating – A+ (and places firmly second only behind The Avengers in MCU Ranking)
Jerrold spent his childhood in southeastern Pennsylvania ingesting far too many TV shows and movies, thus creating a stark-raving mad geek. He’s a movie aficionado, binge-watches Netflix, and is a total TV junkie. His addiction has led to an unhealthy and rabid obsession of various geek pantheons – Star Trek, Star Wars, both DC *AND* Marvel,
cult 80’s and 90’s television, Supernatural, The X-Files, Doctor Who, and, and…holy overload. He’s still waiting to run away in a 1967 Impala or a blue police box.